Burnley mum cleared over baby death

TRAGIC tot Kian McMillan. (s)
TRAGIC tot Kian McMillan. (s)

A BURNLEY mum has been cleared of killing her son who died after a television set fell on his head.

Natalie McMillan (25) was found not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence after four-month-old Kian suffered “catastrophic” head injuries when the TV toppled onto him at their Scarlett Street home.

Tiny baby Kian had been sleeping on his changing mat below when the set weighing 5st dropped onto his head on December 6th, last year. Doctors were unable to save his life and he died the following day.

McMillan had told detectives that she had been trying to change a scart lead on the television to watch a DVD when she accidentally knocked it over.

She denied she had been under the influence of drugs but tests later showed she had taken heroin and valium around the time of the incident.

McMillan maintained she had been “messing with the telly” when it fell on her son and was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.

She later changed her story and blamed the boy’s father Edward Hanratty (41) for the incident, in a defence statement.

When giving evidence in her trial at Preston Crown Court, she claimed Hanratty was the person responsible for the television falling and that she was upstairs asleep when it happened.

When questioned in court on who was responsible for Kian’s injuries, she responded “Eddie.”

McMillan claimed she took the blame because she was scared of Hanratty who she said was “violent” towards her.

She claimed Hanratty told her to take responsibility for the accident and she feared he would get in trouble because he had already had two children removed by Social Services.

Suzanne Goddard QC (prosecuting) said this was nonsense and that she was lying.

The prosecution alleged that McMillan was responsible for toppling the television while Hanratty was “passed out” on the kitchen floor through drink and drugs.

Midway through the trial McMillan admitted neglecting her son, while Hanratty also changed his plea to guilty on the same charge after he gave evidence.

In his closing speech, Peter Wright QC, defending McMillan, had told jurors they were not being asked to determine if his client was a good mother.

The relevant questions were: was she responsible for the television falling and if so; was her behaviour so grossly negligent that it was “truly exceptionally bad” rather than a mistake or a serious error of judgment.

Mr Wright said: “We say the evidence points away rather than to, her being responsible. A not guilty verdict is not a vindication of Natalie McMillan or a dereliction of Kian McMillan.”

The jury took less than four hours to reach its verdict.

McMillan, of Clarendon Road, Leeds, and Hanratty of Dirkhill Road, Bradford, will be sentenced on the neglect charge on January 31st.

Det. Insp. Mark Rothwell, from the Force Major Investigation Team, said: “This is a tragic case in which a four-month-old baby has lost his life due to sheer neglect.

“Neither parent was in any fit state to look after Kian that night because they were intoxicated with illegal drugs and alcohol and Kian was left lying on a mat beneath a cabinet where a large television was placed.

“Sadly he suffered catastrophic brain injuries as a result of this incident and neither parent seemed to appreciate the seriousness of Kian’s condition.”

DI Rothwell warned about the dangers of caring for young children under the influence of drink or drugs.

He said: “This tragic incident should serve as a timely reminder to all those parents and carers who look after children, especially young babies, whilst drunk. Intoxication can render even the most simple of household tasks a hazard. People’s reactions are slower, they can’t think straight and, as happened in this case, they are unable to see dangers that any sober person would react to immediately.”

“I hope both parents will take time to reflect on what happened that night.”